Free Trade And Education

Per the below and this excess issue, one thing that seems pretty clear is that the increasing churn in school systems is going to cause some displacement much in the way that globalization is causing displacement in other industries. Closing schools and closing factories are in some ways similar problems, new technologies or labor market changes that are changing existing industries. It’s not an easy issue to address and should be addressed fairly, but it’s one that policymakers have to take on because like trade it’s impossible to roll back these forces over time, and even if we could, the benefits of a more customized and performance oriented school system outweigh the costs.

But, not to put too fine of a point on it, in the near term it pretty clearly puts on the table the question of whether school systems are educational programs or job programs.

2 Replies to “Free Trade And Education”

  1. Andrew,

    I strongly agree and strongly disagree with your sentiments in the last two posts. In some ways, education reform is like globalization. But the jury is out on whether a “dog eat dog” market would have a competitive advantage over the more humane approach we see in Northern Europe and in affluent progressive American and North American centers. Besides, the discussion tends to follow the logic that other American workers lost their decent wages and dignified workplaces, so why shouldn’t teachers? We never ask why it seems plausable that damaging teachers will help students. Do you really think that Management has a better idea? or that their policies would help students? or that further empowering the people who responded to NCLB in the destructive ways that you rightly condemn is a path for wiser educational policies?

    Then you contradict your seemingly magnanimous approach articulated in Ed Sector publications by issuing the ultimate insult. You reduce our beliefs, that we teachers hold deeply and sincerely (and I might add that we who hold those beliefs compare very favorably in our knowledge of education), to being “a jobs program.” Even if you believe that, how could you say it out loud?

    But my big point is more nuanced. You say we need a “more dynamic and agile” education system. Why?

    Think of all the qualities of an excellent education system that would be more important. We need more modesty, more balance, more respect, more contemplation, more discussion. Globalization and technology have speeded things up, and the next century will be an even more amazing ride.

    But you seem to imply that the learning process will change accordingly. Why in the world would you believe that? Around the time of NCLB, I first heard our superintendent say that we had to “accelerate the learning process.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Surely he had misspoke. But I hadn’t, and I doubt that anyone ever challenged him on it. In retrospect, we teachers who have real-world knowledge of how teenaged human beings learn should have asked him whether he had been hired as an educational leader or as God? (but that would have contradicted my earlier complaint) The human learning process has been evolving over the millenia. Let’s wait and see whether Michelle Rhee survives the next couple of years before we conclude that educational innovators will reverse the laws of biology and cognition.

    Reformers should remember that globalization has not changed the wisdom of “Do unto others …” Would you have wanted a superintenedent to predetermine the rate that you grew into an educated human being?

    An even better metaphor is “checks and balances.” The wisdom in that approach transcends our constitutional democracy and our social safety nets from the New Deal to the Great Scoiety. Beggar thy neighbor doesn’t have a good track record. And to paraphrase the essense of American Democracy, if Management can’t even govern its own administration buildings, why are you so confident in their ability to govern us all?

    When lost in the woods, the first step is to “hug a tree.” Given the magnitude of our challenge, let’s take a deep breath, take some time to smell some flowers, and contemplate why we want a better educational system for all.

  2. No worry about churn and replacement in South Carolina. Failing public schools there remain politically protected, and dont fear change.

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